The 10,000 Hours Rule- 14 Things Outliers Taught Us

by | Nov 22, 2019 | business | 0 comments

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What do professional ice hockey players, Bill Gates, and the Beatles all have in common? Well, they are all masters of their craft.

Also, they are serious about practicing what makes them great. Hours are spent on ice. In the boardroom. In the studio.

Gladwell’s rule states that at least 10,000 hours is the key. So, will 10,000 hours will make you a master? Or is there more to it?  

Let’s dive deeper.

Foster Collaboration

Just what does Gladwell mean when he says Outlier? It means you are somebody that marches to your own drum. It is the basis of the 10,000 hours rule. These are exceptional people.

They are smart, successful and wealthy. Examples include Bill Gates, The Beatles, and Robert Oppenheimer.

These people come from exceptional backgrounds and they change the world. One instance of somebody like this is The Beatles. They performed at least 1200 times before hitting fame in 1964.

This is a feat in itself. Many famous singers of today will not perform that many times in their whole career.

Indeed, hours of practicing your craft will make you a master. It seems like common knowledge. However, even these outliers did not achieve overnight success.

Have you ever heard this phrase? The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

The term for this per the 10,000 hours rule, says Gladwell, is “accumulative advantage.” You may know it as the Matthew Effect.

The example that Gladwell uses is elite hockey players in Canada. Some young men are blessed with the ability to play well.

They are discovered by talent scouts and work their way up, eventually going pro in some cases.  They are naturally talented. Their talents are nurtured by elite coaches.

But is this the case? In some instances, yes.

To be an outlier requires that you have some privilege or advantage. Perhaps you had access to a world class hockey coach.

What’s more, Gladwell argues that birth month can be an advantage. Hockey players in the Memorial Cup were an example. Gladwell found their birthdays were primarily in January, February and March.

You Must Know How to Delegate
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The 10,000 hours rule dictates that you need an enormous volume of time. That’s what it takes in order to become a master of your craft.

This, says Gladwell, is true even if you are a prodigy. However, even though this has largely been disputed, there is some truth to it.

Practice definitely makes perfect. In a world where our attention is short, this is a hard thing to learn.

For instance, Gladwell talks about the famous composer Mozart. The man had been at his craft for 10 years. The first masterwork he made was at age 21.

Without the chance for practice that is intense and lengthy, we cannot become great. Aside from the time and resources you need more.

You need a support network. Parents, friends and family must be with you. It does make a difference. And of course, money is needed as well.

Have you ever had a networking event you didn’t want to attend? Had a friend who seemed to get a great job right away with seemingly no resume?

 Another basis of the 10,000 hours rule says that mastery requires connections.

For instance, intelligence alone could not help Christopher Langan. This man had the IQ of a genius at 195. However, his lack of connections harmed him. He ended up owning a horse farm.

This is far from his potential. Gladwell makes the comparison to Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb.

Oppenheimer grew up in wealthy Manhattan. His father was a successful businessman. He attended a prestigious school.

Langan was a man whose family did not support him nor provide connections to successful people.

 Oppenheimer went on to become a name any historian recognizes today.

Essentially, connections have to be forged so to ensure your success.

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The 10,000 hours rule dictates that you simply cannot go it alone.

This is true in many ways. You need somebody to teach you the craft you would like to master. You need honest feedback from outsiders.

You need somebody to connect you to other successful people. Much like our previous example of Oppenheimer and Langan shows, having connections matters.

And once you are successful, a good network is needed. Being able to talk to others about your work is important.

Having a good network can turn an adverse situation into something easy to manage. It opens the door to new opportunity, too.

6.Your Upbringing Matters (Thank Your Parents)

Upbringing matters as per the 10,000 hours rule. We discussed this briefly already. We did this when we looked at Oppenheimer and Langan.

Now we will expand upon this and argue that parents do matter. They matter when it comes to the success of a child.

Involved parents of school children will go on to do more. They will have better social skills. They will have good behavior.

They are likely to pursue a postsecondary education.  The parents of successful kids model why learning is important.

They also set realistic, but big, expectations for their kids. After all, goal setting is important when mastering a craft.

However, goals have to be realistic.

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One thing we learned while studying the 10,000 hours rule is that socioeconomics matter.

After all, children that are of a low socioeconomic status have more problems achieving success than others. This is what experts say.

Without chances to learn, brain development is not optimal. In families facing extreme poverty, adversity can happen.

Some of these include depression, healthcare lacking in quality, and teen parenthood.

In short, your upbringing matters. The parents of the most successful people supported their child.

Having a safe and predictable environment with support is key to children’s’ success. Add love to the mix and it’s a win.

Malcolm Gladwell states you need 10,000 hours to be a master at your craft. But this is not true.

 So, the 10,000 hours rule is not the end all, be all.

Indeed, the rule has been debunked a number of times. Perhaps this is due to the fact that it focuses on too vague of circumstances.

For instance, what is the quality of your practice hours? Are you learning from a true master?

Are you spending 10,000 hours productively? Are you setting the right goals?

Furthermore, do you have the talent? Not everybody, regardless of time, has the talent.

9.It Takes Way More Than 10,000 Hours

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Not only are we talking time, we are talking resources, too. The 10,000 hours rule is just one facet of craft mastery.

Genetics, for instance, plays a role in how well you will do. Twins show us this. Identical twins, for example, showed better correlated drawing ability.

This is in comparison to fraternal twins, who showed a lesser correlated ability.  

Also, not everyone can be an expert just by putting in the time. Psychologists Gobet and Campitelli found that chess masters who started early became masters quicker in life.

As we can see, there are plenty of other outside factors that tell us whether or not we can master a skill. Age, genetics and learning style all matter.

10.Know the Tactics of Learning

You will need a feedback loop. This helps you measure your progress. This helps you learn what you need to do to improve.

You will also learn exactly what you need to know in order to reach your goal in a faster way.

Next, you have to practice, and practice, and practice some more.

Next, you should be able to teach the skill to others. We will talk about this in a forthcoming section.

Also, you must structure your learning so that you get quality time at practice. After all, quality over quantity is a deciding factor in how you will master your craft.

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If you can teach a skill, you will be on your way to further mastery. Teaching is a good way to stay in practice and exceed the 10,000 hours rule.

Teaching a skill to people like you has many benefits. To show somebody something you love feels good. Whether it’s autos, enamel pins custom, or sewing you can learn when you teach.

The ability to answer questions brought to you by your students will keep your brain sharp. And, you do not have to teach lessons in a classroom.

You can make Youtube videos, start a blog or website. You can retain your skills in a much better manner than you would by passive learning.

Everybody learns in ways that are different than their neighbors, friends and family. Some people learn by doing. Others can watch a video and know what to do.

The 10,000 hours rule states that time is important, but how you go about learning is, too.

Don’t try to force the learning if it is not working for you. Ask for help. Try a new method.

After all, trying to force the learning will only lead to frustration. What’s more, you might be more tempted to give up.

Learn in a way that is comfortable for you.

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Remember when we talked about the Outliers at the start? The Beatles didn’t become rock legends in a year. Bill Gates didn’t get rich overnight.

Instead, you have to set goals you can actually meet. The 10,000 hours rule is not the “1-day rule”.  Setting smaller goals is key. It helps keep you accountable.

Not only do you stay accountable, there’s more. You stay motivated. After all it can be discouraging to set a big goal and fail.

These small goals will help you stay with it. There are going to be hard days. You will want to quit.

But setting smart goals will ensure that you have an easier time. There is no such thing as a smooth road to success.

Going into your goal too fast will only leave you feeling down. And remember, nothing worth having ever came easy.

14. Have Patience

Watch a child learn to ride a bike. You will see them get frustrated. They may throw the bike down.

Watch a baby learn to walk. The child takes tiny steps. They eventually walk across the room to a loving parent.

Both of these children are learning more than you see. They are learning the skills of patience and persistence.

They are also learning how great it feels. The moment when you finally overcome and master a skill is pure gold. There is nothing that replicates it.

You must be like the child again. You have to understand that learning takes time.

We live in a world where everything is handed to us instantly. For instance, website builders know a fact: You have 7 seconds to get the attention of a visitor.

The 10,000 hours rule means you have to be patient with yourself. Let yourself learn freely.


By reading Outliers, we learned plenty of valuable lessons.

Sure, the book contained a lot of great information about skill mastery. At the same time, we recognize it is not the authority on mastering a craft.

We hope this article has helped you make sense of this book. I highly encourage you to check out the book. Leave a comment for us letting us know your thoughts.

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